Jayne Brown;Bouquet of the week

26th March 1999 at 00:00
Every day, everywhere, schools cope with crises. Sometimes it's a crisis beyond the school gates. Teachers and other staff invariably offer comfort and care.

Sometimes the crisis occurs on the premises. It's a test of resourcefulness and calm. Staff in these circumstances regularly rally round and go beyond the call of duty to put things right.

Arson attacks happen with horrible regularity - staff and children at three schools a day wake up to the news that a fire-starter has damaged or destroyed their premises. Then, out of the ashes, staff make provision for children because school life must go on.

The trauma for Jayne Brown, caretaker at Brookside primary school and nursery centre in Telford, Shropshire, was greater because she discovered the fire herself, only six days after celebrating 25 happy years at the school. A routine alarm called her to the site during last month's half-term. "I was inside with a policeman when we saw flames. He told me we had to get out. Then he shouted we had to get out 'now!' " Jayne hesitated and did what she could - throwing water at the blaze and shutting doors, but the flames - and the policeman - drove her out. Then, having phoned the fire brigade, she sat in the car park and watched.

The library and picture gallery were gutted, the nursery was ruined along with half the classrooms. One-third of the building was demolished - but it could have been worse.

Over the years, Jayne's involvement in the school has grown from parent, cleaner and dinner lady, to caretaker, governor, special needs assistant and lunchtime supervisor. That day a big part of her life went up in smoke.

Deputy head Alison Lamputt nominated Jayne because her actions prevented a bigger disaster. Meanwhile, everyone has rallied round. "They all deserve a bouquet," says Alison.

Superteacher and primary head David Winkley has been given many votes of thanks in his time - not least from successful pupils - and in May receives a knighthood. The story of his commitment to Birmingham children on page 4 is inspirational.

Mind and Body this week has the first of two articles on Ofsteditis, an affliction that damages some teachers' health. Next week we meet teachers claiming to have developed immunity.

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